It all started because a previous owner had decided to cut the stock coil springs in order to give the car a three inch drop.
While this looked cool, the stock struts and cheap rear shocks that were put in the car just couldn’t hold up to the massive loss in travel, causing a bouncy ride and a stress-inducing trip through parking garages as something, probably the “custom” exhaust scraped when going over speed bumps and ramps.
This meant the suspension was due for an upgrade—and the ride height could use a little being of raising as well.
To begin, I did a fair amount of research about what other Volvo 240 owners were doing. Given that there aren’t many options for Volvo 240s, I was left with essentially 3 options: leave the cut springs, use ‘sport’ springs from IPD—a Volvo-specific parts supplier—which would give the car a 1.75 inch drop in front, 1.5 inch drop in rear, or modify the suspension to allow for coilovers, which would give me the ability to dial in a suspension height and choose my spring and shock rates.
Since I’d already determined that the cut stock springs were a bit too bouncy and low for my needs and coilovers were just too expensive (and would require more fabrication and modification that I was interested in doing), I was left with the IPD springs.
This was followed by a fair amount of reading on Volvo forums to find out how people liked their IPD springs and what shocks and struts they paired them with for a decent, but supportive ride. Because of the moderate lowering the springs provided, the general consensus was that Bilstein HD (B6) shocks and struts were the way to go. They’re easy to come by, provide an appropriate amount of dampening for the springs, and would work well with the small amount of lowering caused the springs. They also allow for custom valving if they were sent back to Bilstein, so I could always adjust the rates on them in the future if necessary.
Once the springs, shocks, and struts were ordered all I could do was wait for warmer weather, since I made my purchase during the lovely winter we have here in Michigan.
Fast-forwad to the spring, I was able to get out in the garage and start pulling things apart. I had only ever worked on a suspension once before while lifting a Jeep Wrangler that I’d driven back in high school and college, so this was new territory for me—lowering a vehicle (technically this was lifting a vehicle, but it was still going to end up lower than it left the factory).
I dove right in.
Since the stock springs had been cut, it was a relatively simple process of jacking the car up, pulling off the wheels, and starting to pull the front struts and springs out. While I was in there, I replaced the strut mounts and added some stiffening plates to the strut tower. Fitting the new struts in was a piece of cake. It was getting the strut mounts and spring in the first side that caused me to step back a moment and develop something of a game plan.
My goal was to not have to remove the brake hoses, which was an essential step of almost every strut replacement I’d read preparing for this task. In the long run, using shorter springs made this a possibility that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, so that was nice. Not removing the brake hoses did cause me to have to turn the job into a puzzle at first (and need to figure out what needed to be removed in order to get the job done.
When it was all said and done, I’d unbolted the strut, strut mount, and outer tie rods to give me enough room to just barely get everything installed. This included dropping the struts themselves through the top of the strut tower and then assemble everything else from underneath.
This one strut and spring took me the better part of an afternoon, what I estimate was about 4 hours.
The next day I took what I’d learned from the first side and I was able to knock out the other strut and spring in just over an hour. It’s interesting how fast you can get something done when you’ve done it before…
That left with with the rear shocks and springs. These would prove to be a piece of cake in comparison.
With some creative use of the jack, I was able to get the shocks and springs replaced on the rear with almost no issues other than having to realign the rear sway bar that is mounted using the same bolt as the shock.
When all was said and done, I’d spent just under 8 hours working on the suspension (including breaks) over the course of two days. It’s not the fastest job, but I was happy with the results (and I’m looking forward to not having to do it again for a while). It doesn’t hurt that there’s a nice light blue color coming out from behind the wheels.